Tourism and imperialism in the Dutch East Indies: Guidebooks of the Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer in the late colonial era (1908-1939)
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This thesis analyzes tourism’s capacity to reinforce imperialism in the context of the late colonial era in the Dutch East Indies (1900-1942). It examines how guidebooks published between 1908 and 1939 by the Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer, a semi-governmental tourism organization, were encoded with the values of imperialism and the conventions of modern tourism, and how they, as tourist literature, mediated imperial identities. The study of representations of the Dutch East Indies and tourism performances featured in nineteen guidebooks reveals tourism’s potential to reproduce and sustain imperialism. The Vereeniging aimed to represent the Dutch East Indies in a positive light to the world, to attract visitors and stimulate the economy, but also to promote Dutch imperialism. To achieve these ends the Vereeniging mobilized the consumption habits, imaginaries and anticipations, aesthetic norms and travel conventions that characterized modern tourism. In the guidebooks, they constructed an imagined geography of the Dutch East Indies through a set of meanings, symbols and metropolitan discourses, which functioned in three significant ways. Firstly, the division between the metropolitan or colonial tourist, and the ‘premodern’ colonized population is affirmed, as the Vereeniging capitalized on the tourist’s quest for ‘authenticity.’ Marking the indigenous people and the environment of the Dutch East Indies as ‘authentic’ tourist sights – based on their tropical ‘otherness’ – reinforced tourists’ modern consciousness, which substantiated imperial identities. Moreover, the conventional tourist relations between hosts and guests emphasized racial hierarchies of the colonial era, as the subordinate position of indigenous servants and locals is reproduced in tourist behavior outlined in the guidebooks. Secondly, the guidebooks rendered imperialism, and its hierarchies, as a natural order. Dutch imperial authority in the Indonesian Archipelago is never questioned, only affirmed through sanitized histories, sightseeing and unequal service relations. Thirdly, the guidebooks portrayed imperialism as a benevolent project. In the light of the mission civilatrice and the Dutch Ethical Policy, Dutch imperialism is rendered beneficial for both colonizer and colonized. As imperialism is presented as stable and just, the social unrest and the increasing resistance against Dutch rule in the late colonial era are obscured.